Her backside was numb. So anxious not to turn off the laptop, she found herself pressed hard against the ottoman in the sunroom. Anxious, as if pressing that small white button would permanently extinguish this candle, trim its wick too low to relight.
A new laptop, just for her. Not for the boys, not for the business. Just for her. To write. Her husband had keenly rung around and Googled the best deal, and since opening the pristine white box she had barely said a word to him. Poor Tom, the thought bobbed around in her mind like a beach ball in a freshly vacated swimming pool. Fidgeting and ticky-tapping at the keys, sucking on a warm beer like a 17 year old. Tom, now snoring away in their big timber bed, mouth ajar, loyally keeping to his side although hers was vacant. She was too excited to go to bed, like a child not wanting to part with a new toy. The moment felt heavy; and now my life begins.
“You’ve got a memory like an elephant”, her pa used to say. She brushed off his fussing, “Just because I remember where the Vegemite is when I visit …” But he was right. She did have a memory like an elephant, and she carried her past around like a packed lunch. Every day she would unwrap, indulge, stew, poke, prod, and pack it away to do it all again tomorrow. Sometimes it was intentional, and kind, like buying herself a box of chocolates: a memory of a smile from a handsome man on the train, a treat to make her heart feel light. Mostly she was consumed by the dull echo of ‘what if?’
So many things never squared away. And she remembered them all. Her memories had painted her in a corner: she was disabled. Her future was already mapped out by every memory she held on to: she was every mistake she had ever made. From the freshly vacuumed safety of her sunroom, she watched life happen around her. Everyone else seemed to have this magic for making life happen seamlessly, but her life was laboured: full of holes and big, clumsy stitching. Everyone else’s lives looked new, crisp, fresh. Hers was a series of restarts, of trying too hard or not at all.
Her ‘office’ became the clean kitchen table, able to be used only after every crumb and greasy Vegemite smear had been wiped away for the tenth and final time that day. She would work to the soundtrack of the washing machine humming and sloshing and ticking over, the sound of wet buttons on steel; the 60 minute cycle a vague excuse to have time to herself. When all the vagaries of domestic life had been neatened and folded, put back in their place, children sleeping, the dog fed and in the yard, she let her mind run as fast and as hard in whatever direction it could.
The words tumbled out of her fingertips like the unfurling of a cotton spool. This was the end of the starting over: she was going to stitch it all together, the words forming seams between broken bits of past. The seams started slow and uneven, but before long she found a rhythm and each stitch seemed to form itself. And then it simply became a matter of one stitch after another.
As the sun rose over her back and warmed her, it dawned on her that she liked her life splayed out on the page; pinned, raw, and gleaming.